Watch Wednesday: Ralph Lauren Sporting Automotive Collection

Mar 17, 2014

‘Every Bugatti is in a certain way an art object, from its dashboard to its tooling to its engine. Every detail on the car is like fine art, or maybe I should say like a very fine watch.’

– Ralph Lauren

Very few names in fashion carry the same gravitas as Ralph Lauren.  The brand has become a staple in the realm of men’s and ladies apparel, home goods, and lifestyle accessories.  And the man behind it all – the brand’s namesake, is just about the coolest Man of The World we can think of.  With a penchant for supplementing iconic styles with his own personal flair, Mr. Lauren derives much of his inspiration from his outstanding car collection. 

In the past few years, the brand has launched a line of high-end wristwatches that bridge the gap between rebranded fashion label timepieces and true high-end manufacture.  Fitting the theme of this week’s Handbook posts are pieces from the stunning Sporting Automotive Collection, which are fashioned after the gauges in Mr. Lauren’s stunning 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atlantic Coupe’ (which is one of just three in the world, and took the win at this past weekend’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este).

1938 Bugatti, Type 57C, Atlantic Coupe

The pieces in this collection feature ornately inlaid Elm burlwood inserts surrounding and complementing the central gauge-style dial, a nod to the Bugatti in the purest of forms.The pattern variation in the highly prized wood gives each piece its own unique signature and design.   The timepieces use mechanical movements manufactured for Ralph Lauren by IWC.  The pieces are available with a leather strap or metal bracelet.  A chronograph model with a ceramic case and bracelet is also available.

As we’ve mentioned before, very few automotive-inspired timepieces do their inspiration credit, and most end up tacky and overdone.  But the styling on the Ralph Lauren Sporting Automotive Collection is truly exceptional, with impressive detailing and understated looks complemented by honest mechanical internals.  The time-only pieces are understated to the point of simplicity, with a subsidiary seconds register and function-first dial decoration.  The chronograph model features an outer tachymetre ring and two additional registers, but still maintains an almost-antique feeling.

Many manufacturers have tried their hand at bringing fine woods into wristwatches, and most have failed in the most epic fashion.  But executing only as Ralph Lauren could, the Sporting Automotive Collection are stunning pieces to behold, and absolutely the appropriate choice for wrist wear whilst piloting your Pre-War beauty around Lake Como.

Ralph Lauren Chronograph Watch with Elm Burlwood Dial

Words by: James Lamdin - A vintage watch connoisseur and founder of analog/shift ( , an online boutique for a curated selection of exceptional wristwatches.

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